Saturday, January 03, 2015

"War and peace?"
-- Radar O'Reilly

I do believe the time is here. This is the year to re-read War and Peace. Who's with me?

Why now, you ask? Careful readers will note that I first began reading The Book, as I like to call it, that magical Russian novel that lives up to all its promise of literary glory, in 2005. (In fact, it's what prompted me to start my Literary Supplement blog in December of that year.)(Have you actually looked at the URL of my Literary Supplement blog?) And now it's 2015. (CANYOUBELIEVEIT'SBEEN10YEARSSINCE2005?!! BECAUSEICAN'T.) It's been nearly a decade since I moved to Korea, started a blog, assumed my Linda Without Borders identity, and bought my treasured copy of War and Peace (not in that order, because I had bought the book at Borders -- which has since died, leaving us all Without Borders -- in Massachusetts well before leaving the country). Ten freakin' years, my friends.  Side note: we shall perhaps have to have a tenth blogiversary party this fall.  I have mentioned in the time since I read The Book that it is definitely a book to be reread over one's lifetime, since it's so goddamn wonderful and all, and naturally this reminds me of the random guy on the Boston Common who jabbered to me about Goodbye, Columbus. Remember him? Go on and click that link to refresh your memory, if you don't recall the encounter. I'll wait here.  ...  OK, all caught up? He was funny. And I still haven't watched Goodbye, Columbus.

(Is Ali McGraw going to annoy me in it as much as she did in Love Story? I mean, that is one overrated movie and her character was SO irritating! I hated that movie. "Love means never having to say you're sorry." Ugh, who thinks that? Who wants a relationship based on that? Good god. That is second only to "The customer is always right" as the emptiest platitude of crap that everyone repeats as if it speaks some profound truth. Blech.) (It does occur to me to wonder, though, whether the man on the Common jabbered to me because I reminded him of Ali somehow. I mean, she could play me in the movie of my life, right? Or the older version of me, anyway. What is she doing these days?  Maybe it was just her character that was annoying. Maybe I should give her the actress another chance, or read her book, or something. But not that horrible overrated Love Story again, no thanks.)

OK, so where were we? Right. War and Peace. Over the past almost-decade, I have cherished my memories of reading that novel, that quintessential novel of novels, that standard of bookdom, that ultimate literary fiction experience. I remember the excitement of plunging in, reading those first few pages of something SO big and famous and intriguing. I remember the cafe across from my job in Daegu where I would read for an hour or two each afternoon in between classes on my split shift days. I remember finishing it on the plane on the way back to the U.S.-- such interesting timing -- and then the random Eastern-European-who-spoke-Russian man next to me talking to me about it and me being utterly unable to form an answer to the immense question "So, how was it?"

And I'm inspired to reread it now because every ten years, why not, and also because at the bookstore here in Chicago where I attend my Women's Classics book group there is also another book group that is reading big books (called, would you believe it, the Big Books Group) and taking two or three months/meetings to discuss each one, so like they just did Middlemarch and are now doing Vanity Fair and in the spring will be doing, what else, the ol' War and Peace.

I'm starting to get a little bit giddy with the anticipation. (Even among all the other books and projects and reading plans I have for 2015.) Who wants to revisit The Book with me, or perhaps discover its joys for the first time?  Who's in?


Kim Diaz said...

OK. I will try. I need to read Dante's Inferno first. And re-read Quijote. Hopefully, by the end of Feb. Also, this year I intend to read a couple of very famous authors I have not read, namely, Austen and Faulkner. Correct, I've never read either. Don't shoot me. I got a third of the way through As I Lay Dying and quit. But W. & P. is on my list. The book has been sitting there a long time. Like Herodotus. I want to read him, too. And De Tocqueville.
I have BIG plans!
Oh, and by the way, I belong to stand-up comics' book club. I cannot tell you how awesome that feels, even though we mainly read contemporary novels, still, it's good stuff. Cheers.

linda said...

Kim, I love your comment! Everything about it! Regarding Austen and Faulkner, first of all, I have read some Faulkner but I hated his stuff back in the h.s. day and have only recently started realizing I might have been an idiot keeping up my strong disdain for and avoidance of him for 20 years. He won two Pulitzers. TWO! This year I want to finally read those two novels of his. (Hint: They aren't his most famous ones.) Austen, I had resistance to her forever and then I read something in Boston, Pride and Prejudice, I think? I can't even remember. It might have been Sense and Sensibility. And I can't remember anything about it. Like, whether I finished it. So you could say that I need to do some Austening, too...

Kim Diaz said...

Relived to find I am not alone!

Kim Diaz said...

Also, I'm really curious to read Faulkner because: A) A LONG time ago, my best bud was a nice gay Southern Baptist boy from Memphis, TN who adored F. for his perspective, mainly, and B) I read that Gabriel García Márquez said that one aim of his in writing 100 Years was to "destroy Faulkner." And I'm curious as to what he meant. More on this later. Ciao.

Kim Diaz said...

P.S. I bought Almanac of the Dead today at a used bookstore that used to be a Borders. I don't know when I'll get around to it. I have her Ceremony, which I haven't finished, but the form is so experimental and fascinating. I must quit buying books. I must.

linda said...

How dare you say on this blog that you "must quit buying books"? Bite your comment-typing tongue!